raising strong daughters

The Inherent Strength of a Global Sisterhood

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The Inherent Strength of a Global Sisterhood with Honduran Sisters

In my book, I talk a lot about a global sisterhood. Perhaps this is so important to me because I have a Honduran sister-in-law and her mother and sisters have become dear parts of our family. Perhaps it is because I lived in Turkey for 7 years and came to love so many as family. But without a doubt, it is because I believe that if God created us in his image, then there are inherent qualities we share around the globe, throughout time and culture. It is this global sisterhood that I am calling our girls to join, casting a vision for a story playing itself out among women around the world. 

As we wrap up our series on Strong Moms & Daughters, I knew I needed to include an intercultural or international example. With joy I looked to my sister-in-law and her female tribe. These Cerrato-Corrales women are fierce and lovely. They hold multiple degrees, trounce around the world with bravery, and love with a sweet tenacity (and put my side to shame in the fashion and bling department!) I wondered, what would they attribute to their mother and to their culture for their strength? And even more curiously, I asked their mom what she could reflect back on as doing differently, counter-culturally? 

Yolannie, Gissela (9 months pregnant), and Maria

Yolannie, Gissela (9 months pregnant), and Maria

Me - Can you each describe one memory or example of how you remember your mom casting a vision for who you were created to be?

Yolannie - My sisters and I are a reflection of what my mother was both in her personal and professional life. I remember that when we were very young she worked very hard in her career, she had a busy work schedule as a business administrator, but at the same time, she took the best care of us. She taught us to have God as the center of our lives, which allowed us to have in our childhood, adolescence and adulthood a balance in our lives. She transmitted faith since we were little girls; we attended a church group, which greatly influenced our spiritual and personal maturity.

In that sense, she always encouraged us to be independent women, with self-confidence, she supported us in our extracurricular activities, in the achievement of our professional careers, encouraged us to accomplish our goals and to become women leaders in our society. She has always been social, loving and sweet, and instilled these qualities in us, doing good to others despite adversity. Gissela, María and I, have had the opportunity to live abroad (Europe, United States of America and New Zealand) and meet people from different cultures. My mother´s example has helped us to have successful interpersonal relationships wherever we go.

Gissela - I think my mom led by example, she was a kind, loving, caring mother, who would sacrifice everything for her family. She was a working mom, but I always remember her being present. She was always there for us, we knew we could talk to her about anything, and we knew we could always count on her. She would base all her teachings on her faith and the love of God, which she instilled in us. Knowing our parents worked so hard to provide for my siblings and I, gave me purpose to try to be my best.  

Maria - I've had the privilege of having a loving and caring mother. Since I was a girl, she fostered my self-esteem by continuously helping me realize my worth. She made me aware of God's unconditional love, taught me and my siblings how to pray and made sure praying was part of our daily lives. Her faith has been an example for me to base my life and dreams in God. I could always feel her love and support through growing up. Even though she was a working mom, she always made time for us and did everything she could to support our aspirations and goals.  

Me - Can any of you speak to barriers you faced culturally or on the contrary, ways in which your culture celebrated the strength of women?

Yolannie - I think that one of the most valuable resources of Honduran women is the joy, warmth and passion to make things, allowing many women in the last two decades to be successful and become leaders and entrepreneurs at home and abroad, in spite of the machista culture in Honduran society.

Maria and Maria

Maria and Maria

Gissela - When we were growing up the culture in Honduras was still somewhat conservative and traditional at home. Especially, the role of men and women at home was somewhat “machista." Women cook and clean, and the men are served by women and the men do more of the manual work at home. However, in terms of education, I think that women in our generation didn’t experience as much inequality. Quite the contrary, we were expected to get an education and encouraged to become career women just as much as men, though this could have been unique to our family.

Maria (MOM) - I believe that machismo has been cultural, because generally speaking men have considered the role of women mainly being for doing housework at the home. However, in this 21st century, Honduran women have taken actions in their preparation and personal development, demonstrating capability, responsibility, and enthusiasm in the performance of their professions. Whether at home or in society, women are moral and intellectual bastions contributing to the change and progress of our country.  

Me - So, Maria, what did you do to raise such strong women?

Maria (Mom) - My parents got separated when I was a girl and since then, my mother (who was a teacher) dedicated her life to raise me with all her love and dedication. I always saw in her an example of a woman with faith and a fighter, who kept going until I became a professional. She worked hard for me to receive the best elementary and high school education.

In our first year of marriage, we felt the call to join a charism within the Catholic Church called the Neocathecumenal Way, which we have been part until nowadays in our 39 years of marriage. These enabled us to raise our children conducted by the power of the gospel and in that way guide them under these concepts:

Love: Giving all my love and dedication to my children developed a human sensibility within them, which has enabled them to be kind wherever they go, and in that way integrate and be accepted in the different environments they have been.

Respect: Within my reach, I always respected and supported their ideas, talents, professional vocations, dreams, and decisions.  This gave them the confidence for the development of their qualities, talents and knowledge.

Trust: The trust and communication that I deposited in them, gave me the opportunity to be close to them and orient them in different aspects of their lives. This allowed them to be independent since a very young age.

Faith: The transmission of faith in God, enabled them to grow up as people with values.

There you go! Global sisters. Amazing! Women, let us cast our daughters' eyes to the beauty of God's creation, past, present and future, inherent in his design of femininity. It is stunning. 

Read more in A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living.

Yolannie Cerrato, is a career diplomat of Honduras, currently working as Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of Honduras to the United Nations in New York. Prior to her posting in New York, she served as Director for Educational, Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Honduras. She holds a Bachelor degree in Industrial and Business Administration and a Masters in Project Management, Leisure, Tourism, Culture, Sports and Recreation. She has a specialization in integral project management and diplomacy. Besides Spanish and English, she speaks French.

Gissela Pandy currently stays-at-home with 3 kids under 7. She was born and raised in Honduras and moved to the U.S. when she married 11 years ago. She holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. 

Maria Auxiliadora Cerrato-Corrales is 32-years old and the youngest of four siblings. She holds a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Masters in Education. She worked 8 years as an early childhood teacher in Honduras and is currently the Program Official of the non-profit organization REAL LEDGE Honduras.

María Auxiliadora Corrales-Cerrato is 65-years old and holds a Bachelor in Business Administration. She has been married 39 years and has four children and 5 grandchildren. She currently works independently in Sales and Marketing.

Let Her Strength Grow You Too

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Let Her Strength Grow You Too with Shauna Gauthier

“Your story is not my story!”

Her words flattened the argument I had so carefully constructed and was right smack in the midst of delivering when she interrupted with utter exasperation. That single truth bomb she sent flying in my direction took my breath away. So I just sat there, breathless and therefore speechless, while she looked at me eyes ever-widening by the uncertainty of how this act of boldness might play out for her in the end.

I can only vaguely recall the details of the power struggle we were having before that pivotal moment in our mother-daughter narrative. I know that it involved a request for some leeway with regard to specific boundaries we had established around dating and curfews as she entered into her junior year of high school. As the oldest of our four daughters, she is almost always the one leading us into new chapters of our parenting adventure.

It’s an unavoidable reality for all firstborns because there is simply no other way for parents to gain experience. And believe me when I say that I have tried plenty of other pathways to gain insight. I’ve worked with youth since I was still a teen myself, later becoming a trained therapist with a keen understanding of adolescent development and family systems. I am a well-read parent always striving to keep up to date with new research and parenting strategies. But here’s the thing - in all the years of pursuing insight, nothing could have prepared me for the ways in which my daughters would reflect back to me the tender places inside my soul still longing for healing and freedom. Only their faces, only their reactions to my mothering, only their unique voices could have the power to reveal such profound insight.

I heard her loud and clear that day. “Your story is not my story!”

Just two seconds beforehand, I had been convinced that I was offering clear but firm boundaries that were for her good. I was certain that this was one of those times that I needed to be her prefrontal cortex and make decisions that her teenage brain was not yet prepared to make on her own. A mere five words out of her mouth and suddenly I was standing there as naked and vulnerable as Eve. I had the choice to run and hide behind some metaphorical tree, or perhaps I could have pretended that there was nothing to be seen there at all. I certainly could have thrown some shame in her direction and on my lesser days, I’m sure that I have done some combination of all of the above.

How could they ever believe in the strength of their own voices and the power of their own discernment if we can’t make space for their truth in our own hearts and souls?

But I knew she was right. I was caught in that moment and my daughter was the one who pulled back the curtain to expose the truth. The rigid boundaries I was building a case for had more to do with my own past narrative, my own troubled teenage years, and ultimately my own fears than I wasn’t even aware of until that very moment. So there I stood, naked and a bit disoriented.

Like Eve, there are many other women who have gone before us into the terrifying lands of vulnerability and nakedness. The women I am most drawn to, biblical and otherwise, are the ones who sit with the truth of their nakedness. They realize that running from it leads to nowhere good, and neither does denying it or wearing it inauthentically like a badge of honor. And so in that moment, I attempted to sit with it.

“Your story is not my story!”

It took several minutes for a normal breathing rhythm to return to my body. Though I don’t recall the exact words I eventually offered in response to her truth bomb, I know that they went a little something like this…

You’re right. My story is not your story. And sometimes I forget that reality. Our stories are connected though. They are intertwined because we are mother and daughter. They are interconnected because we are a part of the human story. And so that means we will need each other to find our way. Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

And so we did figure that one out together. She bravely spoke her truth and I listened and ultimately modeled how to engage my own vulnerability with grace - at least on this particular occasion. Raising strong daughters seems to be as much about allowing them to grow us as it is about us guiding and mothering them. How could they ever believe in the strength of their own voices and the power of their own discernment if we can’t make space for their truth in our own hearts and souls? Our increasing strength, our mutual growth, the perpetual process of our own becoming - it’s all interconnected in the grander narrative that binds us all together.


Shauna Gauthier is a self-described psychology buff, a fierce advocate for women all over the globe, an amateur theologian, philosophy lover, existential thinker, perpetual dreamer, mama to 4 little women ever-rising, wife, seeker and warm drink lover. She is a trained therapist from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology and currently works as their Alumni Outreach Coordinator. Shauna blogs at LittleWomenRising.com about the intersections of motherhood, feminism and faith as she catalogues her own journey raising four fierce daughters. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and in her Facebook group for Moms of Little Women Rising.